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->''When you play [[TitleDrop the game of thrones]], you win or you die. There is no middle ground.''
-->-- '''Cersei Lannister'''

The first book in Creator/GeorgeRRMartin's {{doorstopper}} ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'' fantasy series, released in 1996.

After the death of Jon Arryn, the Hand of the King, King Robert Baratheon travels to the North to offer the position of Hand to Eddard Stark, Warden of the North and his most trusted friend. When Eddard receives a letter from his wife's sister claiming that Jon Arryn was in fact murdered by House Lannister, the Queen's family, Eddard decides to become Hand of the King to protect Robert's life and the realm, even after an [[MakeItLookLikeAnAccident accident]] leaves his son Bran paralyzed from the waist down. Thus, he travels to the South with his daughters, Arya and Sansa Stark, leaving his three legitimate sons at Winterfell, and letting his illegitimate son go off with Benjen Stark, Eddard's brother, to the Wall.

Due to SwitchingPOV, the novel follows three main plotlines:
* Honourbound Eddard Stark in the King's treacherous court trying to unravel the machinations behind Jon Arryn's death and House Lannister's motives. Meanwhile, his wife Catelyn foils a murder attempt on the already-crippled Bran, and ends up going after Tyrion Lannister, the queen's dwarf brother known as "the Imp," whom she believes is responsible...
* Across the sea, Viserys Targaryen, last heir of the Targaryen dynasty who fled after the successful rebellion fifteen years ago, is plotting vengeance against the Usurper Baratheon who stole the throne and killed his family. To achieve that, he marries his sister Daenerys to a clan of [[FantasyCounterpartCulture Mongols]] known as the Dothraki, expecting an army in return. Viserys is a RoyalBrat, but things are a bit different with Daenerys...
* Jon Snow, bastard son of Ned Stark, decides to join the Night's Watch after his father leaves Winterfell, and defend the realms of men against whatever foes lie Beyond the Wall. For some eight thousand years, the answer to that question has been, "Not much," but today things are different: Rangers are lost, dead men begin walking the land and creatures known as "The Others" have been sighted. And the Night's Watch, an ArmyOfThievesAndWhores, is only marginally ready to stop them...

There are eight POV characters, most of them from the Stark family: Eddard, Arya, Sansa, Bran and Catelyn Stark present the majority of the events in the Seven Kingdoms. Tyrion Lannister provides an insight into the villainous House Lannister, while Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen narrate the events beyond the Wall and across the sea respectively. Minor character Will provides the prologue.

The events of the novel were adapted in the first season of ''Series/GameOfThrones''.

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!! A Game of Tropes:

* AChildShallLeadThem: [[spoiler: At the end of the book, Robb and Joffrey are crowned kings at age fifteen and twelve, respectively.]]
* AdiposeRex: Robert, much to Ned's surprise.
* AdultFear:
** [[spoiler:Ned dies executed in front of his daughters (one right in front of him, the other one is among the crowd), knowing he just invited a war that would torn the continent apart.]]
** [[spoiler: For Catelyn it starts since her beloved child apparently falls from a tower. ''Then'' someone is sent to kill him because he could have seen something he shouldn't, and ''then'' your husband is allegedly framed for treason, executed and your daughter held captive in a DeadlyDecadentCourt]]. [[FromBadToWorse And it gets worse]].
* AffectionateGestureToTheHead: Jon shows his affection to Arya by mussing up her hair.
* ArcWords : "Waking the dragon" starts as Viserys' UnusualEuphemism for his UnstoppableRage but becomes synonymous with TookALevelInBadass by the end of the book.
** And the House Stark words: "winter is coming". They basically mean don't get comfortable because [[MurphysLaw things will go wrong.]] At the beginning of the book, the decades long-summer is wrapping up, the kingdom is prosperous and at peace and the autumn harvests are just starting. [[spoiler:At the end the kingdom is ear deep in debt, a massive civil war is starting, the king is a JerkWithAHeartOfJerk, the fields are burning and ''winter is coming''.]]
* ArsonMurderAndJaywalking: Janos Slynt, commander of the City Watch, complains to the small council of the crime hitting the city, describing one night where "we had a drowning, a tavern riot, three knife fights, a rape, two fires, robberies beyond count, and a drunken horse race down the Street of the Sisters."
* AwesomeMomentOfCrowning:
** [[spoiler:In Catelyn's final chapter, the various Stark bannermen reject the idea of suing for peace with the Lannisters or helping Renly (which would simply end up with the North being under the Iron Throne again) and instead declare Robb "''THE KING IN THE NORTH!''"]].
** From [[KarmicDeath a certain perspective]], [[spoiler:Drogo's "crowning" of Viserys.]]
* AwfulWeddedLife: Robert Baratheon and Cersei Lannister, whose union was the result of an ArrangedMarriage. Robert's real love, Lyanna, was killed in the civil war of Westeros and [[TheLostLenore he never got over her]], and Cersei hates him since he called her [[WrongNameOutburst "Lyanna" on their wedding night]] and spents his days fooling around with other women. [[spoiler: She's paying him back by sleeping with [[BrotherSisterIncest her brother]], passing her children with said brother as Robert's and eventually plotting his death.]]
* BadassBoast: Dany gets one after [[spoiler: Mago and Jhaqo gangrape and murder Dany's slave Eroeh during the dissolution of Drogo's khalasar near the end of the book.]]
-->'''Daenerys''': ''I am Daenerys Stormborn, Daenerys of House Targaryen, of the blood of Aegon the Conqueror and Maegor the Cruel and old Valyria before them. I am the dragon's daughter, and I swear to you, these men will die screaming.''
* BadassGrandpa: Barristan Selmy, Jeor Mormont, Tywin Lannister, Brynden Tully.
* BecauseDestinySaysSo: Subverted with the Stallion That Mounts the World prophecy. The Dothraki crones predict Dany's son will be the chosen one and Khal Drogo even plans to do what no Khal has ever done before (i.e. sail across the sea, which the Dothraki fear). [[spoiler:The child, however, is slain in the womb by the vengeful Mirri Maz Duur.]]
* {{Bookends}}: Ned's first appearance where he beheaded a deserter before his sons. [[spoiler: He is beheaded with his own sword before his daughters.]]
* BootCampEpisode: The Jon chapters after he leaves for the Wall have him training, learning the ropes, doing chores around the Wall and establishing relationships with other sworn brothers.
* BreakHerHeartToSaveHer: After Nymeria attacks Joffrey, Arya knows the wolf will be killed if the Lannisters get hold of her, so she throws rocks at her to get her to run off into the woods.
* BrokenPedestal: Sansa's admiration of Cersei crumbles when she sees what a cruel, manipulative woman [[GodSaveUsFromTheQueen she]] is. Joffrey is another example, though it takes longer; Sansa is so enamored with him that even as he's framing Arya for attacking him without provocation and had the Hound murder her friend, she can't think of him as evil;
** [[ArmyOfThievesAndWhores The Order of the Night's Watch]] comes as a considerable disappointment to Jon. It takes him quite a while to adapt;
** Ned experiences this to King Robert Baratheon several times in the course of the story. In the backstory, it's when Robert condones Tywin's slaughter of Rhaegar's children, and later his indolence as a King and his disappointment at his continued whoring despite his responsibilities.
* BrotherSisterIncest:
** [[spoiler:[[{{Twincest}} Jaime and Cersei]]. All of Cersei's children are product of this relationship.]]
** This is practically a rule for the Targaryens. In fact, Daenerys's marriage to Khal Drogo is thought of as strange by her, since she was expecting to marry Viserys.
* TheCaligula: King Aerys the Mad, [[spoiler:King Joffrey I Baratheon. It's also clear that Viserys Targaryean would have been this had he ever become king.]]
* TheCallKnowsWhereYouLive: Ned knew that Robert would try to appoint him Hand. He didn't expect his king to actually travel North.
* ConvenientComa: Bran finds out about [[spoiler:Jaime and Cersei's adultery,]] and promptly (with a little help from Jaime) goes into a prolonged coma, waking with LaserGuidedAmnesia about the whole thing. All this prevents him from telling Ned, who spends the rest of the book trying to dig up the very same secret.
* CountryMatters: Used fairly freely (especially by men about their wives). However, it's exclusively used for its technical meaning.
* CrypticBackgroundReference: Ned's POV constantly mention the events that transpired at the Tower of Joy and the promise he made to Lyanna at her deathbed, and how it has taken a huge toll on him. The exact cause of her death has yet to be discovered and as well said promise.
* CycleOfRevenge: [[spoiler:Mirri Maz Duur bides her time to get her revenge for her rape and the slaughter of her people at the hands of the Dothraki, and eventually does so by killing Daenerys's unborn child in the womb. This is especially unjust, because Dany had rescued her from her rapists and the child was innocent. Dany doesn't take it well, and gets her own revenge by burning Mirri Maz Duur alive as a sacrifice to hatch her dragons.]]
* DamnedByFaintPraise: Robert asks Ned if he is a good king. HonestAdvisor that he is, Ned hesitates, but grants him that he was better than [[TheCaligula his predecessor Aerys.]]
* DarkSkinnedBlond: Dany's dreams of her unborn child Rhaego show him with her silver hair and Drogo's copper skin.
* DeadlyDeferredConversation: Ned Stark promises his bastard son Jon Snow that they'll talk about Jon's mother after he returns to the capital, Jon's Uncle Benjen promises to talk about Jon becoming a ranger after he returns from a scouting mission, and King Robert tells Ned they'll discuss the exiled princess Daenerys after Robert returns from a hunt. [[spoiler:Ned is unfairly accused of treason and executed, Benjen has been missing for two years and is possibly undead, and King Robert is manipulated by his wife into being killed by a boar.]]
* DeadlyEnvironmentPrison: The Arryns' cells have only three walls...with a 600-foot drop off the side of a mountain on the fourth side. [[EnfantTerrible The Lord of the Eyrie]] also tries to force the imprisoned [[spoiler:Tyrion]] to leave their castle via the Moon Door (again, with a 600-foot drop on the other side.) When [[spoiler:Tyrion]] manages to get pardoned, Lady Lysa Arryn manages to do Death By Freedom ''again'' (he can now leave the castle via the road full of shadowcats and hostile tribes.)
* DeadpanSnarker: Tyrion, Tyrion, Tyrion. Honestly, you could not pick his best line. His wit is one of his keenest weapons.
* DeathByIrony:
** [[spoiler:Viserys demands the golden crown that is rightfully his and that the Dothraki have promised him. Khal Drogo proceeds to melt gold into a pot and empty it on Viserys's head.]]
** [[spoiler:Eddard Stark's first appearance has him beheading a man for deserting the Night's Watch. Ned himself is later beheaded as a traitor to the realm, right after having made a false confession in front of the whole city (with his own sword, no less). Taken even further with the fact that Ned Stark refused to harm Joffrey, even though he is trying to depose him, while Joffrey had no qualms about killing him.]]
* DecoyProtagonist: Will, the POV character of the Prologue, who dies at the end of the chapter. [[spoiler:Eddard Stark is also this on a much grander scale.]]
* DefeatMeansFriendship: Greatjon Umber is extremely hostile to his new boy-lord, Robb Stark, even baring steel against him in his own tent. Robb (and Grey Wind)'s reaction to this insubordination wins him Jon's staunch friendship and support.
* DescriptionPorn: In the prologue, Ser Waymar mocks Gared's incredibly detailed description of what modern readers would call hypothermia.
** Any time [[FoodPorn a feast or meal happens]]. Never read this book on an empty stomach.
* DiabolusExMachina:
** [[spoiler:Just when it seems like Daenerys will finally get a one way ticket back to Westeros and the Iron Throne, poor care for a minor wound results in Drogo's death and the dissolution of his ''khalasar''.]]
** [[spoiler:Ned Stark is betrayed and arrested to prevent his naming Stannis as the rightful heir and plunging the realm into another war. He then is forced to make a false confession in exchange for his and his daughter's lives. He is unexpectedly executed.]]
* DownerEnding: For one character's arc, setting up the conflict for the rest of the series. [[spoiler:Eddard Stark's honorable efforts to give the Iron Throne to the true heir result in his execution and the realm being plunged into a brutal war of succession.]]
* DrivenToSuicide: Sansa imagines doing this will somehow shame the Lannisters for what they've done
* DyingClue: "The seed is strong." The dying words of Jon Arryn which [[spoiler:he repeated after discovering that every child the Baratheons have ever had with Lannisters in recorded history have black hair... save for the three children of Robert and Cersei.]]
* DyingMomentOfAwesome: In the prologue, Waymar Royce is depicted as a smug UpperClassTwit, disliked by the men serving under him. However, when the Others show up, he takes charge and bravely (and futilely) fights them.
* EarlyInstallmentWeirdness:
** Ned mentions that Jaime is the heir to Casterly Rock, but the Kingsguard are later said to forswear all titles as the Night's Watch do — indeed, this becomes a major plot point for Jaime himself.
** Almost certainly intentional, but after growing used to the series having many plots scattered between many characters, on a reread it can be a little jarring to realize the extent to which Eddard Stark was the main character for the first two-thirds or so of the book.
** When King Robert arrives at Winterfell, he and Ned have a long discussion about Jaime Lannister becoming Warden of the East. After that, it's never mentioned again for the entire series. Ned acts like being a Warden is a big deal, but while the titles of the various Wardens are sometimes mentioned, the idea that there is any sort of political power associated with the title(s) is never suggested.
* EnforcedMethodActing: An in-universe example. During a major battle at the end of the book, Lord Tywin Lannister tries to lure Robb Stark's army into a trap by having one flank of his own army crumble under assault, with the pikemen to sweep in after the Northmen over-commit themselves. To accomplish this, he composes that flank solely of irregular troops and green recruits, gives command to his PsychoForHire, and sticks in his hated son Tyrion for good measure.
* EstablishingSeriesMoment:
** The execution scene sets the tone for the book series:
*** [[AnyoneCanDie The man who survives the Other attack in the previous chapter is killed.]]
*** [[ProtagonistCenteredMorality Ned's speech to Bran about "if you can't kill him, then perhaps he does not deserve to die" shows that not every good guy in the series makes the right decision.]]
** Those who don't get a handle on ''A Song of Ice and Fire'' from the above scene will probably have an intimate understanding of how this series works upon [[spoiler:the execution of the likeable, well-meaning main character]].
* ExactEavesDropping: Arya overhears a conversation between conspirators, but the conversation involves the political situation on a different continent, they don't drop many particular details, and speak metaphorically for a large chunk of the conversation. Since Arya's only ten, not only does she misunderstand, she forgets large parts of the conversation (and also misidentifies the dragon skulls being stored in the room she's hiding in as "monsters" when asked.) As a result, when she tries to relate the conversation to someone else, it's garbled to the point of incoherency.
** Subverted before that, when [[spoiler:Bran]] overhears a pair of political conspirators, who turn out to be [[spoiler:Jaime and Cersei. He also uncovers their incestuous relationship]]. They catch [[spoiler:him]], and [[spoiler:Jaime]] immediately retaliates by throwing [[spoiler:him]] off a tower.
* ExactWords:
** A double-whammy from Khal Drogo. "No blood can be shed" in Vaes Dothrak, the Dothraki people's holy city, and Viserys repeatedly demands that Drogo make good on his promise to give him a "golden crown". [[spoiler:When Drogo has had enough of him, he dumps a pot of molten gold over his head, killing him without spilling a drop of blood.]]
** Joffrey tells Sansa that he that he will be merciful. [[spoiler:He never said that he would spare Eddard. He gave him a clean death.]]
* FallenPrincess:
** [[spoiler:Sansa and Arya at the end of the book.]]
** Daenerys has been this her whole life, having been born after her family's dynasty had been ousted.
* {{Fingore}}: The Greatjon got several of his fingers eaten by Robb's direwolf when he summoned the banners. [[MajorInjuryUnderreaction He laughed about it]] and became Robb's [[DefeatMeansFriendship strongest supporter after that.]]
* FireForgedFriends: Tyrion and Bronn. Ned and Robert are a pre-established example, having fought side by side during Robert's Rebellion.
* FirstEpisodeSpoiler:
** A major shock that kicks off the novel's plot at the end of Bran's second POV chapter: Bran Stark [[spoiler:becomes paraplegic after being pushed out of the window of a tower when he discovers Queen Cersei in the act with her brother Jaime Lannister.]]
** Many of the events of the book act as this for the series overall, namely [[spoiler:the deaths of King Robert and [[TheHeroDies Eddard Stark]], Joffrey's rise to power, Littlefinger's betrayal and the birth of Daenerys Targaryen's dragons]], all of which are quite well-known in pop culture, as they set up the plot for later books.
* FlashbackNightmare: Ned Stark suffers from nightmares about the events in Tower of Joy, and his sister dying asking him to keep a promise.
* {{Foreshadowing}}:
** There is some contention between certain characters over whether Jon Arryn meant to send his son Robert to foster with Stannis at Dragonstone, or with Tywin at Casterly Rock. [[spoiler:As she reminisces about growing up in Riverrun, Catelyn also recalls play-kissing Littlefinger with Lysa; Cat didn't care for his attempts to use tongue, but Lysa did]]. This all foreshadows the eventual revelation in ''Literature/AStormOfSwords'' that [[spoiler:Lysa conspired with Littlefinger to murder Jon due to her insane love for Littlefinger and to keep Robert from being sent away to Stannis]].
** "The Greatjon says that won't matter if we catch him with his breeches down, but it seems to me a man who has fought as many battles as Tywin Lannister won't be as easily surprised". In ''A Storm of Swords'', [[spoiler:Tyrion kills Tywin while the latter is on the privy--i.e. Tywin is literally caught with his breeches down]].
** In her first chapter Catelyn feels as though the eyes of the weirwood tree are watching her. In ''A Dance With Dragons'' [[spoiler: Bran learns that greenseers can in fact watch people through a weirwood's eyes.]]
* ForgingTheWill: As [[spoiler:King Robert is dying]], he dictates his will for Eddard Stark to write. [[spoiler:Robert says "to my son, Joffrey", but Ned replaces this with "to my rightful heir", as he had learned that Joffrey is not actually Robert's son.]]
* FreudianSlip: When Ned is speaking with Arya about how the [[HotBlooded wolf blood]] took his siblings Brandon and ''Lyanna'' to an early grave. Brandon found his death by threatening Prince Rhaegar and getting killed by the Mad King, but Lyanna's case sounds weird since the accepted story of her death puts her as a DamselInDistress rather than dying due to her wild nature. This may indicate something more about her death, but Arya doesn't notice something is off.
* GettingCrapPastTheRadar: In universe. It's said that the song about Robert's death because of a boar is really about Cersei. This fails to get past the radar, however, and leads to the singer being given a SadisticChoice.
* GoodIsDumb: Ned Stark spends a good chunk of the book proving this, making increasingly unwise decisions that lead directly to his own hardship and downfall. Perhaps the worst HonorBeforeReason moment is [[spoiler:telling Cersei ''and no one else'' what he learned about Joffrey's parentage, under the belief that she'd just flee. This leads directly to his men being slaughtered, him being captured and then executed.]]
* GoodIsNotDumb: Ned Stark's advice is often dismissed as just being HonorBeforeReason, but there are often very good reasons for his choices.
** He strongly protests Dany's assassination attempt and is called an honorable fool for it, but if they had followed his advice [[spoiler:Drogo wouldn't have had any reason to care about invading Westeros, never would have run afoul of Mirri Maz Duur, and Dany never would have hatched the dragon eggs in his pyre.]] Dany and Drogo would probably have just led a simple life of horsemeat and the occasional raiding, raising their kids.
** He doesn't back Renly's [[spoiler:bid for the throne, but Renly's a diplomat with no combat experience in a situation that will require winning a war. Sure enough Renly does nothing but divide the forces against the Lannisters. He also does not have a rightful claim of succession.]]
* GrimUpNorth: The prologue makes perfectly clear that there's something [[ZombieApocalypse very off]] in the far north.
* HelpingHands: After Jon hacks the arm off a wight, he notices it clawing its way up his leg.
* HeroicBlueScreenOfDeath: Eddard went into a catatonic state after his sister Lyanna died in his arms.
* HeterosexualLifePartners: Jon and Sam, Robb and Theon, Ned and Robert, Tyrion and Bronn...
* HistoryRepeats: Like it happened in Robert's Rebellion, [[spoiler: a civil war starts when the head of House Stark is executed by a petty king.]]
* HitAndRunTactics: Used by Bronn when fighting Ser Vardis Egan. The knight is slow because of his equipped armour, losing to Bronn's speed.
* HopeSpot: When Cersei [[spoiler:arranges Robert's death]], she decides that [[spoiler:Ned Stark]] [[HeKnowsTooMuch must be silenced.]] Eventually she decides to let him live and have him sent to the Night Watch instead, in exchange for [[spoiler:a public false confession]]. [[spoiler:Ned Stark]] agrees, but then her son decides to go off-script at a pivotal moment...
-->'''Joffrey:''' "My mother bids me let [[spoiler: Lord Eddard]] take the black, and Lady Sansa has begged mercy for [[spoiler: her father.]] [[spoiler: But they have the soft hearts of women. So long as I am your king, treason shall never go unpunished. Ser Ilyn, bring me his head!”]]
* HuntingAccident: [[spoiler:How Robert meets his end.]]
* IHaveYourWife:
** [[spoiler: Catelyn]] takes [[spoiler: Tyrion]] as an hostage when she rhinks [[spoiler: he's responsible for Bran's attempted murder]];
** [[spoiler: Sansa]] as leverage against [[spoiler: Ned]] in an effort to get him to submit to the Lannisters' bidding;
** [[spoiler: Jaime Lannister]] is held captive [[spoiler: by Robb and Catelyn]] at the end of the book.
* ImportantHaircut
** Yoren cuts Arya's hair so she can leave the city disguised as a boy.
** Dany's hair burns off after hatching her dragons.
* ImpoverishedPatrician: Viserys Targaryen.
* InnocuouslyImportantEpisode: The prologue is seemingly disconnected with the intricate machinations of the court and the upcoming civil war, but it sets up the true threat: the oncoming winter and the Others.
* IronicEcho:
** Ned sees [[DomesticAbuse Robert slap Cersei hard in the face]] and Cersei replies that she will wear the bruise as a badge of honor. Later in the novel, Cersei slaps him, and he sarcastically repeats her badge of honor comment.
** Tyrion tells Jon to embrace his illegitimacy and wear it like armor so it can never be used against him. Littlefinger later uses the same armor metaphor for Eddard Stark's honor. He thinks it can protect him but it just weighs him down.
** [[spoiler:Mirri Maz Duur tells Daenerys "Only death can pay for life" before performing the blood magic spell that kills Dany's unborn child and leaves Drogo a vegetable. Dany later repeats the words back to her as she prepares to sacrifice Mirri to hatch her dragon eggs.]]
* IrrevocableOrder: The dying [[spoiler:King Robert]] tried to call off the assassination he ordered on [[spoiler:Daenerys Targaryen]], but some made sure his message didn't go through. While the assassination does fail, the attempt does a lot to motivate [[spoiler:Dany to invade Westeros and retake the throne]].
* IWasQuiteALooker: Robert, as Ned and Cersei remember. As a young man, he was TallDarkAndHandsome with a HeroicBuild tall, handsome and "muscled like a maiden's fantasy." By the beginning of the first book, he... isn't.
* KangarooCourt:
** Tyrion Lannister is the victim of the court of the Eyrie. After being kidnapped and taken to an impregnable fortress, he has to offer to confess in order to be let out of a cell specifically designed to make its occupant commit suicide, and then has to ''demand'' a trial by publicly shaming his accusers to avoid going back there. The trial in question would be judged by the six-year old son of the man he's accused of murdering (who already shows a fondness for having people executed), and presided over by the child's mother (who, in addition to being the one to accuse him of murdering her husband, is sister to his other accuser, and is quite clearly mad). To avoid this, his only option is trial by combat (he's a dwarf and his opponents are seasoned knights,) and when he demands a champion he is denied his first choice and has to ask for a volunteer from the rabble of soldiers and mercenaries employed by his accusers.
** One strange example comes from an unambiguously heroic character, and is just one more example of what a CrapsackWorld Westeros is. After Gregor Clegane is accused of heinous crimes, Ned Stark hears the testimony of the victims (who could only describe Clegane in general terms and by reputation, rather than positively identify him), immediately sentences him to death ''in absentia'', and sends men to execute him, without putting him on trial, giving him a chance to defend himself, or hearing any sort of counter-witnesses. The fact that all the accusations, along with worse things, are true softens any blows to Ned's character.
* KarmicDeath:
** [[spoiler:Viserys gets his own golden crown. ''Liquefied'' gold.]]
** [[spoiler:Mirri Maz Duur gets revenge for her mistreatment at the hands of the Dothraki by killing Daenerys' child in the womb. Since Daenerys had rescued Mirri and shown her kindness, and the child was completely innocent, Daenerys is ''[[TranquilFury enraged]].'' She responds by burning Mirri alive as a sacrifice to hatch her dragon eggs, using the very principles of blood magic Mirri had taught her, complete with IronicEcho: "Only death can pay for life."]]
* KneelBeforeZod: Torrhen Stark bent the knee to Aegon the Conqueror to save the North. [[spoiler:His descendant Eddard refuses to do the same for King Joffrey and it ends badly]].
* LovingAShadow:
** Sansa instantly falls head over heels for Joffrey because he looks exactly like the PrinceCharming she has always dreamed to marry, despite pretty much everyone in ger family (Arya, Jon, Robb and even Ned) sees that he's actually a PrinceCharmless instead. [[spoiler: She gets disillusioned in the cruelest fashion possible, when Joffrey orders the execution of her father at the end of the book and starts openly [[DomesticAbuse abusing her]].]]
** Even years after her death, Robert is still in love with [[TheLostLenore Lyanna Stark]] (or at least the impression he had of her before his rebellion). It's heavily implied that the reason he never got over her it's because he never got to live the reality of marriage with her, not to mention that had he ever got her back like he wished, their marriage would be ruined anyway since there would be Rhaegar's ghost always between them. And as things turned sour with Cersei, he keeps pining for a woman he actually never knew intimately. This is lampshaded by Ned when Robert has a quarrel with Cersei in ''Literature/AGameOfThrones'':
-->'''Robert:''' The woman tried to forbid me to fight in the melee. She’s sulking in the castle now, damn her. Your sister would never have shamed me like that.\\
'''Ned:''' You never new Lyanna as I did, Robert. You saw her beauty, but not the iron underneath. She would have told you that you have no business in the melee.
* LooseLips: Sansa Stark. [[spoiler:Unintentionally helped the queen's plot against Eddard, which cost him his life.]]
* TheMagicComesBack: [[spoiler:Daenerys manages to resurrect the dragon race. The lasting impact of this big event will be explored in the next books.]]
* TheMarvelousDeer: King Robert went hunting after hearing of a white hart in the Kingswood. Instead, he ran into a boar...
* MeaningfulEcho: "I did warn you not to trust me." Said by [[spoiler:Petyr Baelish]] when the city watch he had promised to secure for [[spoiler:Eddard]] turns on him.
* MissingMom: Jon grew up not knowing who is mother is, Ned has never told anyone her name or origin and this has always been source of angst for Jon.
** Also, Daenerys and Viserys' mother died by giving birth to Daenerys and left her child living as a refugee after their family was deposed.
* MonsterMunch: The prologue features three characters, two of whom immediately die at the hands of the Others, proving that they do exist after all.
* TheNeedsOfTheMany: Ned Stark is twice confronted with this.
** Should he have Viserys, Daenerys and her unborn child killed to prevent them from invading Westeros? He chose no.
** Should he proclaim Stannis Baratheon as the rightful king even if it invites civil war? He chose yes but eventually recanted after a BreakTheHaughty process.
* NeverMyFault: Sansa blames Arya for Lady's death, despite the fact that if she had ''told the truth'' about Joffrey trying to hurt Arya and her friend without provocation, Lady wouldn't have died.
* NiceJobBreakingItHerod: ZigZagged. The maegi Mirri Maz Duur [[spoiler:magically kills Daenerys Stormborn's unborn son in utero, both for revenge against the father and because the unborn child is prophesied to be the Stallion That Mounts the World, an unstoppable city-smashing warlord. While it doesn't exactly turn out well for Mirri in the end, she DOES successfully prevent the boy from being born and fulfilling whatever his Super Special Destiny was supposed to be. However, Mirri's actions wind up resulting in the rebirth of dragons into the world, and Daenerys's march toward Westeros.]]
* NightmareSequence: Ned has recurring dreams about the death of his sister Lyanna and of the mysterious promise that he made to her. Later on, after being thrown in the dungeon, he has a particularly creepy nightmare of the late King Robert mocking him for putting HonorBeforeReason and endangering his family, only Robert's face begins to crack and then shatters, revealing a horrifyingly surreal image of Littlefinger.
* NotNowKiddo: Arya overhears a conversation between two of the major schemers when it comes to the fate of Westeros. It involves a plot to kill Ned, but her disconnected and fanciful-sounding description of events leads him to disbelieve her.
* NotSoDifferent: Lysa and Cersei. Cersei is quickly shown to be a bitter, petty, paranoid tyrant who assumes anyone who isn't a fawning YesMan is out to get her, smothers and spoils her eldest son rotten, and inflicts swift DisproportionateRetribution on anyone she perceives as wronged her family in any way. Once Catlyn gets to the Eyrie, she quickly learns that her sister Lysa has become petty and paranoid, constantly believes that anyone who gives advice she doesn't want to hear is against her, has spoiled and smothered her son so much he still breast-feeds at age ''six'', and leads such a blatant KangarooCourt against a man merely ''accused'' of killing her husband that even his accuser, Cat, thinks it unjust. Oh, and Lysa and her son enjoy carrying out executions as much as Cersei and Joffrey do. [[spoiler:It's later revealed that both Lysa and Cersei arranged to get their lord husbands killed with wine.]]
* NotWhatItLooksLike: After the sack of King's Landing and the death of the Mad King, Eddard found Jaime sitting on the Iron Throne. This convinces him that the Lannisters were doing a power play. Robert disagrees and thinks Jaime was just tired. In Literature/AStormOfSwords, [[spoiler:we find out Robert was right. [[HeroWithBadPublicity Jaime's actions were more honorable than what people may think.]] ]]
* OffWithHisHead: Happens quite a few times (the first proper chapter features Eddard Stark beheading a deserter from the Night's Watch), most notably to [[spoiler:Eddard Stark himself for supposed treason and trying to usurp Joffrey's throne.]]
* OutOfTheInferno: The final chapter features [[spoiler:Dany walking into her husband's funeral pyre and emerging naked but otherwise unharmed with her three dragons born in the flames.]]
* PerfectlyArrangedMarriage:
** Ned and Catelyn, although they weren't at first supposed to get married because Cat was betrothed to his older brother [[PosthumousCharacter Brandon, who died before the story started.]]
** Another unexpected case are [[spoiler:Daenerys and Drogo.]]
** Sansa and Joffrey's engagement [[spoiler:until he shows his true [[TheCaligula colors]]. ]]
* PleaseSpareHimMyLiege: Sansa tries one of these to [[spoiler:save her father's life]] and Cersei obliges, because he's an important hostage. [[spoiler:Then Joffrey has him executed anyway]].
* PlotTriggeringDeath: Jon Arryn's death may have set the process in motion, [[spoiler: but it's Ned's execution that ultimately plunges Westeros into all-out, bloody war.]]
* PresentAbsence: Discussed in Catelyn's POV. She thinks that there are two ghosts in her otherwise happy marriage with Ned: Ned's older Bradon, whom she was set to marry, and Jon Snow's mother.
** Also, Lyanna Stark has been dead for fourteen years but her death is still very much present in Ned's thoughts and actions.
* PoorCommunicationKills: Lysa Arryn's letter pointing to the Lannisters as the ones who killed her husband was a warning, telling them to stay away. Instead, it convinced Ned to accept Robert's offer of being Hand.
* PreMortemOneLiner: Ned Stark recalls when he fought and killed Ser Arthur Dayne at the Tower of Joy:
-->'''Arthur''': And now it begins.
-->'''Ned''': No, now it ends.
* ThePromise: Ned Stark promised something very important to dying Lyanna. What is this promise is still unknown.
* PrecursorHeroes: Eddard Stark, Robert Baratheon and Jon Arryn.
* PrincessInRags: Daenerys [[spoiler:at the beginning.]]
* PyrrhicVictory: The aftermath of Robert's Rebellion. The Mad King is dead, Ned and Benjen are the only Starks left, and The Lannisters become powerful allies of The Crown as Lord Tywin wanted at the cost of his family's reputation.
* RedshirtArmy: Eddard's household guard.
* RuleOfThree: "...for the Dothraki believed that all things of importance in a man's life must be done beneath the open sky." Repeated three times in the narrative; at Khal Drogo's wedding, the conception of his child, [[spoiler:and his death.]]
* SacrificialLion: [[spoiler: Ned Stark's death]] sets the major events of the following books.
* SadisticChoice: Either Robb Stark kills his own direwolves, or Bran will die.
* TheScapegoat: Cersei demands to have Sansa's wolf put down in place of Arya's wolf, and Sansa chooses to blame Arya instead of the queen who ordered the unjust slaughter. (Or Joffrey for picking the fight against Arya and Nymeria, or herself for lying about Arya's and Nymeria's guilt, which gave Cersei cause to call for a wolf execution in the first place.)
* SecretLegacy:
** Gendry the apprentice smith is King Robert's bastard;
** [[spoiler: Crown Prince Joffrey and all his siblings are actually the product of Cersei's incestuous affair with her twin brother.]]
* SelectiveObliviousness: Sansa refuses to see [[BeautyIsBad Joffrey]] as anything but noble and gallant, and Cersei as TheHighQueen, even after witnessing the former maliciously bully and threaten to kill an innocent peasant boy for sport, her brother being crippled when Jaime Lannister pushes him out a window, and the order for Sansa's wolf butchered for something Arya's wolf (rightly) did. [[spoiler: It takes [[TheCaligula Joffrey]] ordering her father's execution for her to finally see their true colors.]]
* SiblingYinYang: [[AlwaysSecondBest Ned and Brandon]], [[RedOniBlueOni Robb and Jon, Jaime and Tyrion]], [[FoolishSiblingResponsibleSibling Robert and Stannis]], [[TheGloriousWarOfSisterlyRivalry Catelyn and Lysa]], [[TomboyAndGirlyGirl Sansa and Arya]], [[CainAndAbel Viserys and Daenerys]].
* ShooTheDog: Arya had to throw rocks to force Nymeria to go away because she knew Joffrey wouldn't let her "insult" to him go so easily.
* ShoutOut: a very minor character has a Series/{{black adder}} on his coat of arms, another a ComicBook/{{green arrow}} and it can't be a mere coincidence if [[ComicBook/IronMan the Iron Men are so close neighbors to the Starks]]...
** [[Literature/{{Gormenghast}} Titus Peake]] is lord of Starpoint.
** [[Series/RobinOfSherwood The Hooded Man]] is a legendary figure from the age of Heroes.
* StrongFamilyResemblance: Robert's bastard offspring all show a strong resemblance to him both physically and in being headstrong. [[spoiler:This proves to be a significant plot point, as his supposedly ''legitimate'' offspring all take heavily after their mother, despite the fact that in all other documented cases Baratheon genes are clearly dominant over Lannister ones.]]
* SweetAndSourGrapes: A minor example in the discovery of the direwolf pups in the first chapter. Jon persuades Ned that they're an omen as there's one for each of his five children, which only works because he's discounted himself (despite his desire [[LikeASonToMe to be treated as a trueborn Stark]] being his fundamental source of {{angst}}). Bran notices this and finds it very moving, but as they set off Jon discovers a sixth pup in the snow - [[TheUnfavourite a mute albino runt whose mother had abandoned it]].
* SympathyForTheDevil: Ned towards Cersei, he feels bad for Robert's DomesticAbuse and especially for his WrongNameOutburst of "Lyanna" on their wedding night. [[spoiler: Too bad [[GodSaveUsFromTheQueen Cersei]] is having none of it.]]
* TakeAThirdOption: After the Battle of the Camps, the Northern Lords are confronted with declaring between an evil boy-king (Joffrey) or for a king who has support of arms but has no legitimate claim to the throne (Renly). Robb Stark notes that if they go against Joffrey they are essentially traitors even if their cause is just, while declaring for Renly goes against the line of succession, which is the basis for every Lord's inheritance in the Seven Kingdoms. What do they finally decide? [[spoiler:Declare for Robb Stark as King in the North and secede from the Seven Kingdoms]].
* TakeCareOfTheKids: [[spoiler: Robert's last request to Ned. Too bad that [[EnfantTerrible said kid]] doesn't want to be being taken care by Ned.]]
* TakingYouWithMe: Attempted by [[spoiler: Sansa when Joffrey shows her the heads of her father and household on spikes and she almost moves to push him off the bridge they're on. She's stopped by Sandor Clegane]].
* TantrumThrowing: Sansa throws a tantrum when Ned informs her that [[spoiler: he is sending her back to Winterfell and will end her betrothal without explaining why]].
* TenMinuteRetirement: Ned relinquishes his post as Hand of the King after Robert orders the assassination of Daenerys Targaryen, who is at the time a thirteen-year-old girl in the far east. [[spoiler: After Jaime injures Eddard in retaliation to Catelyn arresting Tyrion, Robert gives Ned back his position]].
* TextileWorkIsFeminine: Arya & Sansa in their first appearance. Jon Snow also jokingly tells Tyrion to tell Robb that he can rest easy and take up needlework with the rest of the girls now that he's on the Wall defending the realm.
* TheHeroDies: [[spoiler:Ned Stark]].
* ThoseTwoGuys: Sansa's BFF's Jeyne Poole & Beth Cassel.
* TitleDrop: The expression "game of thrones" is first dropped by Jorah: "It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are." Cersei also says it later when she warns Eddard Stark from going against her. It's mentioned several times throughout the other books.
* ValuesDissonance: An in-universe example: Viserys believes he sold Dany to Drogo and thus is outraged when Drogo won't pay him via retaking Westeros. From a Dothraki perspective, Viserys did Drogo a favor that should be repaid, but doesn't need to be repaid immediately, or when the recipient demands it.
* VillainBall: [[spoiler:Viserys]] is so deluded by belief in his superiority that he totally underestimates the brutal barbarian horde that he believes should serve him and foolishly thinks that their rules of SacredHospitality will save him when he violates their taboos and threatens the lives of their rulers. Instead, they [[FalseReassurance get]] [[CruelAndUnusualDeath creative]].
* VorpalPillow: [[spoiler: How Daenerys puts an end to Drogo's misery.]]
* WaxOnWaxOff: Syrio's strange methods for teaching Arya to swordfight include chasing cats, hopping around on one foot and walking on her hands.
* WhamLine: [[spoiler:"Ser Ilyn, bring me his head!" Said by Joffrey, sealing Ned's death even though the action is basically a [[WarWasBeginning declaration for war.]]]]
* WrongNameOutburst:
-->'''Ned:''' I remember Robert as he was the day he took the throne, every inch a king. A thousand other women might have loved him with all their hearts. What did he do to make you hate him so?
-->'''Cersei:''' The night of our wedding feast, the first time we shared a bed, he called me by your sister’s name. He was on top of me, ''in'' me, stinking of wine, and he whispered ''Lyanna''.
* YankTheDogsChain: See WhamLine. It looks like Ned will be able to take the black and see Jon again if he only confesses to his crimes...[[spoiler:which is blown to pieces when Joffrey decides to execute him against everyone's better judgement.]]
* YouShouldHaveDiedInstead:
** Catelyn tells Jon this after Bran's fall puts him in a coma. It doesn't make sense, as Jon had nothing to do with Bran's accident, but she was just bitter with grief and wanted to lash out.
** Sansa says it to Arya, telling her that they should have cut off her head instead of Lady's.

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